Friday, 25 July 2008
Ken Freeman was a great man. He died yesterday. Ken was a big man; his wife, Judy, is small. They'd been married for almost 60 years.
I first met them when we moved here in 1989. Ken was church warden at Goosey (which is a pretty church in the heart of the country). Ken and his family farmed the big farm in the village, and had a prize-winning herd of Holstein Friesians. Each year, on Rogation Sunday (late spring) we'd walk from here through the fields to their farm and have a service in one of the barns, and pray that God would bless the land, the stock and above all the farmers. Policies made dairy farming a precarious business and in the end they sold the farm, and moved to a bungalow in the Cotswolds. (Having had four working farms when we moved there, Goosey now has none. I don't call it progress.) He was born and bred a countryman. He was a great supporter of the Old Berks Hunt; so didn't have much time for New Labour, and its incomprehension of traditional rural life, which he'd love for 80+ years!
With Ken's passing, life here is the poorer. He was a good friend. He had a great sense of humour; always pulling one's leg and a decent irreverence. He was delighted and distracted (so he said) when we had a new good-looking woman curate. She converted him to women priests, at a stroke! When he retired as warden along with Judy, the church was packed. He enjoyed the old story I told then, about the bishop who arrived to preach at a country church, to find only the organist, the old churchwarden and the vicar in the congregation. 'Didn't you tell people I was coming?' he asks the vicar. To which he replies, 'No, but word must have got out.' I have a feeling that, when word gets out, Ken's memorial service in Uffington will be packed out again.
Talking of bishops - no, I think I'd better not. Such places as the Lambeth Conference - well, angels fear to tread. In fact, let's hope that's very much not true.